Sunday, April 16, 2006

Local Trains and Utopian Ideas

Read the below news on Sunday Times of India front page:

"Mumbai locals may be air-conditioned

Tired of sweating it out in local trains? Some ‘cool’ news may be on the anvil as Union railway minister Lalu Prasad is considering the Maharashtra government’s proposal to run air-conditioned trains on the Mumbai suburban network. The state government has been clamouring for the introduction of AC coaches in local trains to attract the huge pool of car owners currently clogging the roads of Mumbai. With more than 15 lakh vehicles on Mumbai’s roads on any given day, the government hopes that the prospect of a comfortable journey by AC coaches will induce car owners to take trains. Against this backdrop, chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh had written to Lalu in January. While cleaning up station areas and expediting pending railway works were also part of the letter, the thrust was on the introduction of AC coaches in the existing trains, followed by all-AC trains. TNN"

AC trains are always cool (pun intended); but the government's hope of inducing car owners to take trains is going to crash. Here is why:

1) Where is the space? Take a look at any local train. Does it look anyway that more people can board it in a civilized manner? Getting into one requires head strongness and the absence of guilt in stamping feets. Does the government think that people who can afford cars would care to bother with trains in such a situation? I don't own a bike let alone a car and still I try to take an auto or a bus(comparatively comfortable) to wherever possible.

2) Where does a passenger spend a large amount of his time of journey? Before you shout train, let me put down a couple of other places which the passenger will visit:
a) Auto/Taxi to get to and from the station. Well the government isn't certainly hoping that people have their source and destination just beside the station.
b) Platforms/Ticket Counters.
Now any Mumbai guy will know none of the above are air conditioned and the crowds at platform is nothing less then what you will meet in your coach. So no sane car owner, I repeat no sane car owner is going to travel by a train be it AC or non AC.

Now if only the government wakes up from its slumber and start thinking about real solutions instead of crazy ideas.


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